The humble microfiber cloth is one of the most essential and underrated cleaning supplies. It can be used to clean some of your most precious and expensive possessions—from eyeglasses to laptops to televisions.
But not all microfiber cloths are worth it. A bad microfiber cloth can be small and infuriating to use. A terrible one can even scratch surfaces with its poor construction or badly placed logos. A great microfiber cloth will easily envelop your glasses lenses and glide across the surface of your television screen.
And it shouldn’t be expensive. In fact, the perfect microfiber cloth should be inexpensive, since you’ll want several to rotate between when you wash them. Once a cloth is full of dust and oils, it stops being useful for cleaning.
You can wipe down just about anything with a microfiber cloth, but we’ll run through some of the most common cleaning projects to get you started.
You may need some other tools, depending on the cleaning project, but all of these tasks require a decent microfiber cloth. Although we haven’t done any head-to-head testing on microfiber cloths, I have used these MagicFiber Microfiber Cleaning Cloths for eight years to clean test laptops, mice, and keyboards, as well as my personal phone, monitor, television, and glasses.
You can get a 30-pack of 6-by-7-inch cloths for around $20—the same amount Apple charges for a single cloth of similar dimensions. MagicFiber also sells a set of three extra-large, 16-by-16-inch cloths for larger surfaces, like televisions. But you’re also just fine with the smaller size.
You touch your phone a lot, so it’s pretty much always in need of a wipedown. Our guide on how to clean your phone recommends turning it off and then wiping it gently with a dry cloth to remove fingerprints and smudges. If there are still stubborn spots you can’t remove with the dry cloth, dampen the cloth with warm, soapy water (but don’t get it sopping wet!) and give it another pass.
Laptops are also major collectors of dust, finger grease, and stray crumbs. To clean your laptop, start by turning it off and removing the battery if you can. Then wipe down the whole thing—the keyboard, the trackpad, the screen, and the rest of the chassis—with a dry microfiber cloth.
For stubborn screen spots or any parts that remain shiny from hand oils, lightly dampen the cloth with warm water and revisit those bits. Be careful not to press down too hard on fragile components, like a non-glass screen or the trackpad.
Even though a TV isn’t touched as frequently as a phone or laptop, it can still accumulate smudges and dust. Before you begin cleaning your television, turn it off, and make sure it’s completely cooled down. Then use a dry microfiber cloth to gently remove dust from the screen. Don’t press too hard, since that can damage an LCD or OLED display.
For smudges, dampen a second microfiber cloth with distilled water and gently buff the smudges out using a circular motion. If the smudges still don’t come off, mix just a couple drops of dish soap with distilled water, and use that with a third cloth. Then go back to the second, water-only cloth to remove any soap residue from the screen.
To clean your remote, use the dry cloth to give it a quick wipedown. If any hand oils remain, use the slightly damp cloth to remove them.
Anyone who wears glasses knows they need frequent cleaning, but did you know you shouldn’t clean them with a dry microfiber cloth? Doing so just redistributes grease and rubs in small debris that can damage your lenses.
Instead, rinse your glasses for 15 seconds under warm water to dislodge excess grime. Then squirt a pea-sized drop of dish soap onto both sides of each lens, and gently rub the soap with your fingers to create a lather for cleaning the rest of the frame. Lightly shake excess water from your glasses, and then—this is where the microfiber cloth finally comes in—use a clean cloth to gently dry the glasses.
If you spend hours each day using a keyboard and mouse, over time they’ll develop a lustrous sheen of natural hand oils. We recommend that once a week you unplug your keyboard, flip it upside down, and shake all the dust, skin particles, hair, and crumbs out. Then wipe down the keycaps with a microfiber cloth to remove some of the oils.
For your mouse, wipe the surface down with a microfiber cloth. If gunk builds up on the feet of your mouse or keyboard, wipe it off with a microfiber cloth, and use a toothpick to remove any stubborn bits. If you need to give your peripherals a deeper clean, check out our full guide on how to clean your keyboard and mouse.
Once you’ve gunked up your microfiber cloths with dust and skin oils, you’ll need to clean them. The manufacturer of the MagicFiber cloths recommends hand-washing them in warm water with no detergent and hanging them to dry.
Sometimes warm water alone isn’t enough to get grease and oils out of your cloths. So I tried cleaning two microfiber cloths, one with a pea-sized drop of Dawn soap and one with a pea-sized drop of our recommended laundry detergent diluted in a bowl of warm water.
Both options cleaned effectively and didn’t damage the cloth. I’d be inclined to use the Dawn again in the future because it’s more effective at degreasing, and it leeched a bit less black dye from the cloth. If you do this, be sure to rinse the cloth very thoroughly before you use it again, to remove any traces of soap. Hang it to dry.
One Wirecutter editor regularly throws his microfiber cloths in a delicates bag in the washing machine, but we don’t recommend doing this for a few reasons. Using fabric softener, laundry detergent containing fabric softener, bleach, or dryer sheets will coat your microfiber cloth. And if you wash your microfiber cloth with cotton or any other materials that create lint, that lint will cling to your cloth.
Anything on the surface of your cloth can compromise its ability to clean and could scratch delicate surfaces. Also, the agitation in a washing machine causes microfibers to shed a lot of tiny fibers, which have a negative environmental impact. Hand-washing generates less-powerful agitation and will result in fewer fibers shed into your water system.
This article was edited by Connor Grossman and Alejandra Matos.
Kimber Streams is a senior staff writer and has been covering laptops, gaming gear, keyboards, storage, and more for Wirecutter since 2014. In that time they’ve tested hundreds of laptops and thousands of peripherals, and built way too many mechanical keyboards for their personal collection.